Wednesday, April 29, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Weekly Coronavirus Reminder; Lakeshore Nature Preserve; Next Plant Delivery; Compost Tea; Nagging on Various Subjects

Hello Gardeners,

CORONAVIRUS  – We still need to continue social distancing. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you come to the gardens, bring your own tools if possible; otherwise, wash tool and cart handles before and after you use them, and/or use garden gloves. And don’t come to the gardens if you’re feeling sick. We now have soap at both gardens, and we will try to keep it stocked.

LAKESHORE NATURE PRESERVE – Our gardens are part of the UW Lakeshore Preserve, and there is Preserve property next to both EH and UH. Everything in the Preserve, (except for garlic mustard) is protected. Gardeners are not allowed to take anything from the Preserve, including sticks for fencing and trellises, even if they’re lying on the ground. We have stick barrels at both gardens, and try to keep gardeners provided with sticks. Also, dumping weeds or trash is not allowed in the Preserve. To learn more about this beautiful area:

RESPECT FOR OTHER GARDENERS – This should go without saying, but apparently, I need to remind gardeners that nobody should be walking through another person’s garden without permission, and nobody should take anything from another person’s garden –  equipment or plants or anything. If you have friends helping you with your garden, please make sure your friends understand our rules, as well.

DIGGING OUTSIDE OF YOUR PLOT – The gardens are looking especially good this spring. Although some gardeners are staying away out of health concerns, clearly a lot of gardeners have extra time to garden, and are really throwing themselves into clearing, weeding, building, planting, etc. This is all good. But a number of gardeners have been digging in the paths in front of their plots. This is not good, if your plot is on a water line. Please be aware – the water lines are shallow, and not very far from the surface. Water lines can be damaged by garden tools, and in fact, one of our recent line breaks happened because of a gardener digging outside the plot. You can weed outside your plot if you like, but do not use tools anywhere near the water line.

WARM WEATHER PLANT DELIVERY – Garden to Be is still taking orders for plants from Eagle Heights gardeners, to be delivered on May 17. If you place a new order, be sure to choose “pick up” when you check out, and include the information that you’re an Eagle Heights gardener, so he’ll waive the delivery fees. Here’s the link again:
COMPOST TEA – Former EH gardener, Gary K., will once again provide his wonderful free AACT (actively aereated compost tea) to gardeners on Saturday, May 2. He will deliver it at 9am to the area near the EH shed. Each container should be mixed with a gallon of non-chlorinated water, and will provide healthy microbes to enrich your soil. (You could use lake water, or let the garden water sit for a day to let the chlorine dissolve.) You’ll get best results if you apply it in the evening. He’ll leave a trash bin so that people can return the containers and he can reuse them next time. Thanks, Gary.

CARS IN THE GARDEN –We are not allowed to drive cars into the gardens. (Occasionally, some UW staff do this, but they are allowed.) I know that some gardeners who are bringing heavy equipment or lots of plants want to park next to the EH gate to unload, but this is not allowed, either. I am willing to make an exception for elderly/disabled gardeners, or special circumstances, but please ask in advance. Yes, it’s a pain to get a cart and haul things from Eagle Heights Drive. (I know, believe me.) But the garden entrance  at Lake Mendota and Eagle Heights Drives is a very dangerous corner, with a hill, buses, car traffic, and a great deal of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. To say nothing of turkeys. It’s not safe, so please don’t do it.

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Coronavirus; Water;  Hose Etiquette;  Cool Weather Plant Delivery; Compost and Seeds; Herbs for Sale; Potato Planting

Hello Gardeners,

CORONAVIRUS  PRECAUTIONS – We still need to keep up our social distancing in the gardens and be careful with the shared tools and carts. Remember – wash your hands with soap and water before you come to the gardens, bring your own tools if possible; otherwise, sanitize tool and cart handles before and after you use them, and/or use garden gloves. And don’t come to the gardens if you’re feeling sick. We now have soap at the Eagle Heights Gardens – at the sink next to the shed. Soap will be coming soon to University Houses, and we will try to keep it stocked at both gardens.

WATER  - The water has been turned on in the Eagle Heights Gardens. If water isn’t on yet at University Houses, it should be this week. Of course, as soon as the water came on, the reports of leaks started. I believe the leaks in the 1300s have been fixed now, but there are apparently also leaks near 725 and 824. If you find another leak, let me know. At this point, due to the virus, our garden workers are not allowed to work on-site, so we’re dependent on the UW Plumbers to fix these.

Also, once the water is on at University Houses, we will need to organize volunteers to bring out the hoses and hose reels. Let me know if you’d like to help with that. Of course, it constitutes a workday.

HOSE ETIQUETTE – Another sign that water is on, besides the reports of leaks, is that hoses are now lying stretched out everywhere in the garden. Once the joy of water has subsided a little, please remember the rules about hoses – hoses, when not in use, must be stored in your plot, and must be disconnected from the faucets. Hoses left in the paths are subject to confiscation, mutilation, and other unspeakable horrors. DON’T leave your hose lying around in other gardeners’ way.

COOL WEATHER PLANT DELIVERY  – If you have ordered any cool weather plants from Garden to Be, please come to Eagle Heights this Sunday, beginning at 8am, to pick them up. We will have volunteers assisting you to find your plants and keep the correct social distances. If you will not be able to get to the garden by 10:00 to claim your plants, please let me know – we can put them temporarily in the shed, or we could bring them to your plot, if you’re willing to take the risk of  nice-looking plants sitting at your plot unattended. If you haven’t placed an order, unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to get plants delivered to the garden without charge.

COMPOST AND SEEDS – A number of gardeners have asked if we will be selling compost this year, as we did last year. As with everything else this year so far, it will all depend on when the current health restrictions are relaxed. We can’t plan it or even consider it until we know when we will be able to have sales in the garden again. Also, we still have lots more seeds, both for spring, and for summer, but they are at the Community Center, which is closed. I hope we will be able to bring some of those out to share with gardeners by middle or late May, but for now, we’ll have to wait and see.

HERBS FOR SALE – One of our gardeners also owns Harvest Moon Herb Farm, which has been growing herbs for 20 years. She currently has a number of varieties of  lavender, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, stevia, and scented geraniums for sale. You can order by emailing, and she will deliver the plants to your plot. Plants are $4 each, or 3 for $10. You can find the plant list and other information on their Facebook Page:

POTATO TIME – Many of the gardeners are planting potatoes now  – the middle of April is the time for southern Wisconsin. Here is some information on when, how, and what varieties to plant:

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Coronavirus; Water; Cool Weather Plant Sale; Row Cover Sales; Why We Hate Fences

Hello Gardeners,

CORONAVIRUS  PRECAUTIONS – Just a reminder: We still need to keep up our social distancing in the gardens. And we still need to be very careful with the shared tools and carts. Remember – wash your hands with soap and water before you come to the gardens, bring your own tools if possible; otherwise, sanitize tool and cart handles before and after you use them, and/or use garden gloves. And don’t come to the gardens if you’re feeling sick.

WATER  - The water is currently scheduled to be turned on in the gardens next week. I don’t have an exact date, and it could be delayed by very cold weather. Once we have running water, gardeners will be able to wash their hands with soap and water at the gardens. We will try to provide soap, if we can.

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE  – We had scheduled the last Sunday this month for our annual cool weather plant sale by Scott Williams of “Garden to Be”, but because of the virus, Scott will not be able to sell plants at our garden - it would not be safe for anyone. Instead, Scott is putting together an online store that lists all of his plants. Anyone who wants to get plants from him will be able to order them online, and he will deliver them to the gardens. Payment will be in advance. The cool weather plants, such as broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce, will be delivered one weekend morning at the end of this month, and then the warmer weather plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, will be delivered in the middle of May. Scott will be charging a little more than in previous years to make up for his additional expenses, but will not charge for delivery. As soon as I get his link and his exact payment and delivery dates, I’ll share those with the gardeners. I’ll remind you – Scott has very good quality plants, and he’s learned over the years which plants and varieties we’re interested in buying from him. So though we all regret the general inconvenience, it’s still worth buying from Scott if you’re able to do so.

ROW COVER SALES – We have several huge rolls of row cover, which we intended to sell at our Seed Fair (cancelled) and our Plant Sales (also cancelled.) We currently don’t have a way to get it cut into individual pieces, and we also don’t think it’s safe to have face-to-face sales in the gardens. So unfortunately, if you want row cover, (which is a lightweight cloth used to protect plants from cold, wind, and insect damage), you’ll have to buy it from a garden center. (I’m sorrier than you are about this – it’s currently taking up at least half of my office. Not that I’m allowed to work in my office these days.)

INDICATOR PLANTS – I was just told that the time to plant peas is when the leaves of lilac bushes are the size of mouse ears. Say what? This is all new to me, but there is an old, traditional system that tells observant gardeners when to plant certain vegetables, based on what certain perennial plants are doing at a particular time of year. This is also called phenology – the study of the timing of plant and animal activities. Here’s an explanation:

WHY WE (THE GARDEN MANAGEMENT) HATE FENCES – We would love to just ban fences in our gardens. But gardeners have many reasons for wanting them. For some people, it’s how people garden back home, and they don’t feel right without fences around their plots. We also have many animal pests, such as turkeys, that can be kept out by fences (sometimes.) Fences can also be used to provide a structure for plants to grow on. But fences often cause problems for neighboring plots. If you have to have a fence, here are four things you have to do: 1. Set it up in the right place, which means at least six inches inside your plot from the plot borders. 2. Maintain the fence – a fence that flops over on your neighbor’s plot is useless to you, and a nuisance to your neighbor. A fence must be staked so that it stays upright. 3. A fence should not be so tall or densely planted that it shades your neighbor’s plot. 4. You must keep the area with the fence weeded. If you can do all that, you’re welcome to have a fence. If not, please take it down.Your neighbors will thank you.

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  Kathryn

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: CORONAVIRUS PRECAUTIONS; Seeds; Know Your Boundaries

Hello Gardeners,

VIRUS PRECAUTIONS – More safety suggestions from gardeners:  Carry a plastic ziplock bag with you, with a washcloth and soapy water in it – you can use it to clean your hands when there’s no running water handy. You can also add rubbing alcohol to your bag, and then you have a wipe. We were able to bring some more free tools to the gardens, but of course, they were gone in 30 seconds. If any of you have extra tools you could donate, please bring them to either garden and leave them leaning against the share shelves. The more people who have their own tools, the fewer of us there are sharing them. Wearing garden gloves when you use tools is better than nothing, but the best practice is for all gardeners to sanitize their hands and everything they touch, including tools and carts. We want to keep tools and carts available to everybody, but there is a real risk of spreading disease, so we all have to take this seriously.

SEEDS – Our free spring seeds are almost gone now. If you need to buy seeds, you can get them at grocery stores, hardware stores, and garden centers. (Call ahead to make sure they’re open.)  If you want to order over the Internet, I would recommend the seed companies that donate seeds to us, such as Seed Savers, Renee’s Garden, Territorial, Baker Creek, Johnny’s, and Agway. The best source for Asian vegetables is Kitazawa Seeds in California, although we haven’t been able to get them to donate….

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – It’s still early in the season for spring planting. But, unless your soil is very muddy, you can go ahead and plant peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets, turnips, and carrots. These are plants that can stand cool weather and even a little frost. The ground is still cold, so plants won’t grow very quickly at first. But there are so many seeds in a packet that you might as well try planting – if you lose an early crop, you can plant again.
Don’t plant bean seeds now – wait until May. They can be damaged by frost, and they also require warm soil to germinate.
If you have seeds for tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants, these should be started now, inside your house. You will have best results if you buy some seed-starting soil mixture – this is lighter than normal soil, and your seedlings will grow better in it. (You can buy this at hardware stores and garden centers.) If you don’t have regular plant pots, you can use plastic food containers. Put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Get the soil thoroughly wet, then put a few seeds on top, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window sill, and keep it moist (but not soggy.) Once the seedlings come up, be sure to give them as much light as you can.  Starting seeds in the house can be tricky. Here’s a link to a website with more detailed instructions:

KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES – If you’re a new gardener, be sure to figure out your boundaries first thing. Each plot has a metal sign in front of it with the plot number. (If it’s a small plot, there is a metal piece under the number with A and B on it at Eagle Heights, or N and S on it at University Houses. (I admit, some of these are missing right now.) There should also be two yellow (or red) posts at the front of the plot – these mark the corners. Your plot extends from one yellow or red marker to the other. BUT every gardener must allow six inches on each side of the plot, including the back, for access. Since your neighbor also must allow six inches, this means there is one foot of empty space between each plot. This space is necessary for you and your neighbors to be able to work, push carts, and connect hoses to water. You are not allowed to plant anything in this space, and you should not have big plants next to it that will grow into it or hang over it. If you put up a fence or trellis, it CANNOT be placed on the boundary – it must be at least six inches into your plot – 12 inches would be better. 

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,